Dominic Cummings, the controversial mastermind behind the 2016 campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, resigned on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide.
Amid speculation that he would leave the government at the end of the year, Dominic Cummings looked on Friday and left the front door at 10 Downing Street.
Cummings was due to leave at the end of the year, reports say, but he was seen walking out of Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office on Friday with a box.
A government source confirmed that he would no longer be officially employed from “mid-December”.
Cummings, a chief architect of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, has been a divisive figure in the Conservative government since Johnson became prime minister 16 months ago. His position weakened earlier this year after he drove hundreds of miles across England after contracting Covid-19, violating national lock-in rules and leaving the impression that elite officials did not have to follow the same onerous rules as everyone else.
The section sparked criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic following delays in the extension of testing and efforts to avoid a second national deadlock in England. This deadlock was finally introduced last week, but it could not stop Britain from becoming the first country in Europe to pass 50,000 deaths during the pandemic.
Nicknamed “Boris’ brain”, Cummings has also been the target of complaints from leading members of Johnson’s Conservative party, who say unelected advisers in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street office effectively governed the government and excluded ministers and parliaments.
Bernard Jenkin, chairman of an influential committee of conservative lawmakers, said Cummings’ resignation was an opportunity for Johnson to “restore the functioning of the government”.
“I suggest that there are three words that need to be the watchword in Downing Street: they are respect, integrity and trust,” Jenkin told the BBC. “And in the relationship between the Downing Street machine and Parliament’s party, there has been a very strong feeling that it has been missing in recent months.”
Although he won an 80-seat majority in the December general election, Johnson’s government has been forced into a series of embarrassing political upheavals in recent months, criticizing Cummings’ poor advice to the Prime Minister.
In addition to his attitude to lockdown, Johnson has gone back on the decision to let the Chinese technology giant Huawei participate in the construction of the UK’s new mobile phone network; one to use an algorithm to award students grades after annual school exams were interrupted due to the pandemic; and a third not to extend free meals to poor children when schools were closed because the UK faced rising unemployment due to the pandemic.
‘Weirdos and misfits’
In a blog post in January, Cummings called for changes in the government’s approach, claiming that the public administration did not have sufficient expertise in certain areas. He infamously said that “strange artists and wrong skills” can help the government develop better policies.
In that post, Cummings said he wanted to make himself “largely redundant” by next year.
In his Thursday interview with the BBC, Cummings said that rumors that he had threatened to resign this week were false, but that “his position has not changed since my January blog”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps downplayed Cummings’ resignation, saying he had accomplished many of the things he set out to do.
Cummings’ signature policy goal was Brexit – to secure Britain’s exit from the EU – and that process is scheduled to end by the end of this year. He has recently taken the lead in rolling out mass tests to help control Britain’s Covid-19 outbreak, and that program is now being rolled out.
“It’s always been nice to have someone in the room shaking things up, asking why, not taking no for an answer,” Shapps said. “And it has been very much that Dominic Cummings has been able to bring his talents to No. 10, but he is ready to move on.”
But Cummings has been criticized for creating a controversial relationship between the prime minister’s office and those he believed stood in his way, including officials, the BBC and lawmakers at the back.
Jenkin said there has also been a division in Johnson’s government, with Johnson appointing inexperienced cabinet ministers who then dictate policies to them rather than having ministers take responsibility for their departments.
Cummings’ departure is an opportunity to change the government and bring in more experienced ministers, Jenkin said.
“If you do not have the corporate memory, then history repeats itself and people make the same mistakes, or certainly mistakes that can be avoided,” Jenkin said.
( Jowharwith AP and AFP)